Sunday, April 10, 2005

COLUMN: Trivia

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. I've been in denial for some time now. Addictions are for the weak, I've told myself. I'm better than that. At least, I thought I was. I DO have a problem. I need to face my demons head on, it's the only way. I need to come clean, right here and right now.

Hi, I'm Shane, and I'm a triviaholic.

Every weekend, when most of you are out living your lives and doing important things, you can usually find me cramped into a room with hundreds of strangers, attempting to prove my pop cultural self-worth at my favorite new fad: a trivia night.

These things are popping up at community centers and rental halls all over the QC. At trivia nights, teams of eight players battle other teams over the course of a 3-hour game. 10 rounds, 10 categories, 100 questions in all. It's usually $10 a person to enter, and the winning team can take home anywhere from $100-$1000 depending on the event. Most of these trivia nights are fund-raisers, with your entry fee usually going to a good cause. And if I keep this up, don't be surprised if one of those good causes will soon be to send me to a trivia rehab facility.

See, I tend to pride myself in knowing a whole lot of completely useless stuff, and very little else. I couldn't change a tire if my life depended on it... but I could likely rattle off Madonna's entire discography, including tracklistings and tempos of all major singles. And I don't even like Madonna. Why do I know this stuff? I couldn't begin to tell you. The other day, one of the questions we had was, "Name all of the letters of the bottom row on a typewriter." The room let out a collective groan; I grabbed our answer sheet and wrote "ZXCVBNM" without hesitation. Again, no idea why that's in my brain; it just IS.

My fear, though, is that one day the useless junk in my head will overtake the important stuff. Someday I'll turn on MTV, learn that Madonna has a new album coming out, suddenly forget how to breathe, and presto, Death By Trivia.

But trivia nights are the one event where knowing useless stupid stuff can come in handy. People of all ages and all walks of life gather together to share food and laughter and be entertained by fun trivia questions all night. It's not about competition; it's about having fun with friends, and all the teams understand that and take the game lightly.

All the teams except one, that is. Oh, don't get me wrong, my team understands that it's all about having fun... and the best way to have fun is to WIN AT ALL COSTS. We are a lean, mean, useless trivia machine. Every member has their own assigned specialties: one's good at sports, another's good at history, another's great at geography, etc. Me? I'm our team's pop culture guy - music and movies are my forte. And we don't stop until we've won.

This, you would think, should definitely make all of the other teams hate us. Strangely, though, no one has flung food at us yet, despite our frequent trips to the judges table to debate the validity of the "official" answers. A few months ago, one of the questions was identify-the-song. The emcee played 15 seconds of the tune -- which was obviously Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise." We knew the answer and thought it would give us a clear lead in the round. Then an announcement from the judges: "We will accept either Phil Collins or Genesis" for the answer.
WHAT? They practically had to hold me back. "Another Day in Paradise" was CLEARLY a Phil Collins solo track and not that of his old band. By that logic, if the song had been John Lennon's "Imagine," could we have put down 'The Beatles'? A few questions later, we were faced with a "Name this book of the Bible" question. The answer was Luke; but that didn't stop me from putting on our answer sheet, "But you'll also accept Genesis, right?" I'm also surprised that the judges havent hurled food at us yet, either.

I AM over-exaggerating a bit, though. While our team makes no qualms about coming out to win, it really IS fun just to be there, and I really DO encourage everybody to check area calendars to see when one's coming up in your area. In today's world of who's-got-the-shiniest-dance-club and what-can-entertain-me-the-most-effiently, it really IS nice to shuck all that in favor of a trivia night. There's something unbelievably old-fashioned and genuine to it... and the sense of community you get at one of these nights is priceless. Unless, of course, I don't win. Then it's just lame.

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